Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
The Volume Intensity Myth
The role of a strength coach is three fold: 1.) Do No Harm, 2.) Reduce Injury, 3.) Enhance Performance. With the additional use of several biofeedback markers such as HRV (the state of the autonomic nervous system) and vertical jump (the state of the central nervous system) qualified coaches can more accurately prescribe stress to their respective populations. There are plenty more markers to utilize, but we use these for convenience/economy in our small and individual groups at DSC.
There are certain periods within program blocks where deliberate pairings of both volume and intensity are increased, decreased, stay the same or move in different directions. The traditional belief that volume and intensity are inversely related is false! “The inverse relationship between volume and intensity is a myth.” (Tsatsouline) Each combination serves a result driven purpose. Here are a few volume/intensity parings that solicit different adaptations.
- High/Low: This pairing can be used to build a solid platform for strength gains by increasing time under tension.
- Low/High: This pairing can be used to increase maximal/absolute strength (via intra-muscular tension). This pairing is more demanding to the CNS.
- Medium/Medium: Armor building. This pairing can be used for hypertrophy.
- Low/Low: Regeneration. This pairing can be used for recovery/regeneration usually programmed as a de-load, where volume and intensity are cut 40-60%.
- High/High: This is an aggressive pairing that usually leaves athletes’ on the verge of overreaching/overtraining. Concentrated loading must be followed by a taper (usually 2 weeks) to realize the gains while simultaneously avoiding negative performance outcomes. Training this way consistently (P90X/Crossfit) can lead to injury and decreases in performance.
As you can see in the above examples, volume and intensity are NOT always inversely related. First we need to figure out whom it is we are training (training age)? What quality/adaptation is it that we are seeking? How much time do we have to solicit the gains (in-season, off-season, months, weeks, days before competition? A well-structured program provides answers to these questions while concurrently providing a safe, well-coached environment. Volume and intensity are very important program variables; each pairing provides a different stimulus and response.
(1) Tsatsouline, Pavel, Beyond Bodybuilding, Dragon Door Publicatio